Description 4-1/2" - 4-3/4" The male has rust-colored
underparts, and black crown. This nuthatch has a white chin, a line
through eye, and a white eyebrow. It has long, strong toes and claws,
and a long, solid bill.
Female similar, but crown is gray. The white markings on either side
of the short tail can be seen in flight in both sexes.
Habitat Red-breasted Nuthatches typically prefer mature, wet,
coniferous forests with closed canopies, especially those of spruce
or fir. They can also be found in more open forests and patches of
Diet Insects and spiders are the main foods in the summer.
During winter, Red-breasted Nuthatches eat many insects that they
pry from food caches they create in bark crevices, but they also eat
many seeds. In developed areas they have learned to eat suet and
peanut butter mixes as well.
Nesting Red-breasted Nuthatches form monogamous pairs. They
usually excavate their own cavities in a rotten snag, often aspen, and
require fairly soft wood to excavate. They will occasionally use a
natural cavity, old woodpecker hole, or artificial nest box.
The entrance is usually smeared with pitch, presumably to
discourage predators. Both members of the pair create the nest hole,
and the female builds the nest inside.
The nest is a cup of twigs and grass lined with softer material. The
female lays 5 to 8 white eggs spotted with red-brown. She incubates
the eggs for 12-15 days. Both parents feed the young for 18 to 21
days on the nest, and for about two more weeks after they fledge.
Second broods are rare within a single breeding season.
Range Breeds across Canada from southeastern Alaska,
Manitoba, and Newfoundland south to southern California, Arizona,
Great Lakes region, and northern New England, and south in
Appalachians to North Carolina.
Red-breasted Nuthatches are the only nuthatches that regularly
migrate down-slope in winter. Thus many birds from mountainous
nesting areas move into their regional lowlands for winter. In years of
bad harvest, they migrate in large numbers to more southerly forests.
Voice A tinny yank-yank, higher pitched and more nasal than the
call of the White-breasted Nuthatch.
Discussion Like other nuthatches, Red-breasted Nuthatches
use their strong legs and claws to walk up, down, and sideways on
tree trunks, probing in the bark crevices for food. They readily come to
seed and suet feeders and will cache food in crevices to return to
Numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches are limited by the availability of
soft snags, softer than those suitable for woodpeckers.
The juveniles are
oh-so friendly and